Asking questions and showing interest in a meeting


If you have been listening to the podcast for the past couple of weeks you will know that we are working on improving our confidence in meetings and our ability to actively participate in meetings.

Once you have opened the meeting and given your first opinion on a topic, it is then great to start asking others for their opinion, while at the same time showing interest in what they are saying.

I have always taught my students to try and control the conversation as best they can. To do this you need to be the one asking the questions. It is simple. If try and hide and you don’t understand what is happening, you are not in control. If you are the one asking the questions and seeking clarification on the things you don’t understand then you are in a much better position to follow the meeting and actively participate.

With this in mind, in today’s episode we are going to be looking at how you can ask questions and show interest. This will make a huge difference to your confidence and participation level and well get you practicing even more English.

So, let’s dive in and take a look at asking questions and showing interest in business meetings.
 

Asking General Questions


If we are interested in knowing more about a topic of discussion in the meeting then we can start by asking general questions. General questions are great for getting an overview of a topic before you go into more detail. It often helps to get the context before deep diving into any topic. Secondly, it can help other participants in the meeting who may not be familiar with the topic in question.

Take ask general questions, we could use one of the following structures: 

  • I’d be interested to know more about…
  • Could you tell us something about..?
  • Could you give us an update on the status of…?
  • I think everyone would like to get a broad overview on… 

As you can see, these are easy questions to get yourself participating and making sure everyone understands the general idea behind what is to be discussed.

Let’s now look at the second type of question sets.

Asking for detail


​Once you have the general idea clear you may need to go into more detail, or you may want to get some specific information that is relevant to better understanding the issue at hand.

Conversely, when you don’t understand the specifics of a point then these expressions will come in handy.

If you want to ask for specific detail or clarify, then you could use one of the following expressions below:

  • What do you mean exactly by…?
  • Could you please be a bit more specific?
  • Sorry could you just clarify your last point?
  • I don’t think I fully understand what you mean. Could you elaborate on that?

​As you can see with these expressions, you are being polite, and you are ensuring that you are getting clarification on the areas of points that you didn’t understand.

The important thing here is to specifically ask for the detail on the part of the point that you failed to understand. To do this well you really need to be listening in the meeting. It is not good to say, “Sorry, I didn’t understand anything, can you go over it again?”

In the next part we are going to learn a very useful skill for clarifying. These are asking “clarifying questions” or asking “supporting questions”.
 

Asking supporting questions


​Asking clarifying questions is one of the most powerful tools you have at your disposal. They are much more effective than just asking someone to repeat themselves.
To use clarifying questions effectively you need to be listening for detail and keywords. You then use those keywords to help you to form the question and focus on the area you need to clarify.

Let’s look at the example sentences below:

  • So, you are saying… (summarise what you understood)
  • If I understand you correctly, you are saying…
  • Am I right in thinking that…?
  • When you said… did you mean…?

​As you will see, these expressions require you to summarise what you think you understood. This way you are showing the other person that you are listening, but there were some aspects of what they were saying that you didn’t understand.

Try practising this in your next meeting and see how effective it is. I’m sure you will find it a much more engaging way to clarify as opposed to just asking someone to repeat themselves.

Know the difference between strong, neutral and tentative opinions is very important, as you can change the meaning of your message by just changing a few words.

Checking understanding


Now we will transition to the next part of the episode. Here we will learn how to show interest in a meeting.

When we are discussing important aspects within a meeting, it is important to ensure that everyone is following you and have understood.

To show you are concerned about understanding and clarity, you can use the following expressions to check your audience or meeting members are with you.

  • Is that clear?
  • Does that answer everyone’s question?
  • Have I cleared that last point up?
  • Would anyone like me to explain that again?
  • Is everyone OK with that?

Most of these expressions are not formal and are more neutral, however, it is important to try and make people feel comfortable. No one likes to put their hand up in a meeting and say they don’t understand.

Showing interest


Being a great meeting participant require you to actively participate. To do this well we can use some expressions to show interest and encourage our colleagues.

Through showing interest we are likely to have more productive meetings and we will also make people feel more comfortable and that their time is of value.

To show interest in a meeting you could use one of the following expressions: 

  • That’s interesting.
  • Of course.
  • John, please, go ahead.
  • That sounds great!
  • I think you’re on to something here.
  • Yeah, I love that

Remember, reacting positively to people’s ideas and input is a great way to make your meeting more enjoyable and effective. We should always acknowledge people’s input as this is the way to generate more ideas and ensure we are getting maximum participation.

Managing questions


Finally, we are going to cover how you can ensure your meeting stays on track by making sure you only answer or address relevant questions. Sometimes questions are not relevant or necessary and if this is the case we need to address them before they waste time.

The secret to managing questions is acknowledging the person and then politely deflecting or postponing the question until and more appropriate time.

To manage irrelevant or off-topic questions we could use one of the following expressions:

  • Can I deal with that later?
  • Could we come back to that?
  • I’m coming to that soon.
  • I will address that point in a minute.
  • Can you come and see me after the meeting?

​As you will see, being polite and in some cases answering a question with another question is a great way to keep your meeting on track.

Final thoughts


​These expressions are timeless and a great way to become more active in meetings. Remember the key is to having the confidence to clarify things when you are not sure, or managing irrelevant questions.

Next time you are in a meeting, try and prepare two or three of the expressions in this episode to use.

Let me know how it goes and be sure to watch the episode as it has a detailed description of how to use these expressions and their meaning.

Watch the episode here

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About the Author Andrew

Andrew is the CEO and founder of the Art of Business English. Besides teaching and coaching native Spanish speakers in Business English, he is also passionate about mountain biking, sailing and healthy living. When He is not working, Andrew loves to spend time with his family and friends.

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